Andrew James, Norton Rose

I’d had a legal career in mind since I was at school and filled out one of those tests that supposedly match your attributes to different jobs by asking lots of random questions – law came back pretty high on my results.

Name: Andrew James

Firm: Norton Rose
Position: Trainee solicitor
Degree: History
University: University of York
Where did you study the GDL and/or the LPC? GDL – College of Law (York branch); LPC – BPP (Holborn branch)
Hobbies: Music, watching sport, cooking, reading and seeing friends
Current department: Tax

Why did you decide to train as a solicitor? I’d had a legal career in mind since I was at school and filled out one of those tests that supposedly match your attributes to different jobs by asking lots of random questions – law came back pretty high on my results. When I started to research what was involved in being a solicitor I soon thought it would suit my strengths and build on the skills I’d developed throughout my degree.

Why did you choose commercial law?
Commercial law offered a number of departments that I was keen to experience. I wanted to try different areas and make up my mind based on experience. When I considered this alongside the great training and benefits, it was a straightforward choice when compared with other practice areas.

What has been the highlight of your training contract so far?
Seeing the work I’ve done, whether it’s drafting a document or researching a piece of law, as part of a transaction. There’s something satisfying about seeing a document you’ve drafted being signed by a client. I’ve also met some great people.

What does your typical day involve?
It’s hard to say what a typical day involves as you’re given work by others, which means it varies from day to day. At the moment I’m sitting in the tax team so there are lots of research questions, but I’ve also been involved in drafting auxiliary documents and even writing articles. And contrary to popular rumour, you don’t spend all of your time on humdrum tasks.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?
Working with intelligent people on challenging problems. It was very important for me to have a job where I use my brain.

What are the worst aspects of your job?
The unpredictability of workload can be frustrating sometimes, but you learn to manage and prioritise the tasks you’re given.

What’s the biggest misconception of the legal profession?
I’m not sure that it’s a misconception, as the top end of the profession is still not very diverse. But my experience is that firms are really trying to attract people from different backgrounds. My trainee intake is certainly a diverse bunch.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law?
Do your research, both in the types of work you think you might like to end up doing and the type of firm that interests you, as there is a huge range. Doing as much work experience as you can to make your decisions as informed as possible will really help in your choices and at interview: it’s great to be able to say, “I want to do this because I’ve experienced it and I know it interests me”. Make sure you live life at university to the full and get involved with as much as you can so you have lots to talk about at interview.

What are the biggest pitfalls students should try to avoid when trying to secure a training contract?
I know it’s old hat, but churning out loads of application forms to firms you may or may not be really interested in takes ages and the quality of your applications suffers as a result. Concentrate on the firms you’re really interested in and make sure you research them thoroughly, so your applications are as good as they can be.

What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract?
The careers people at York were very helpful, but as there was no law faculty or law fair when I was there, there weren’t people I could talk to with first-hand experience of becoming lawyers. Also, as I made the decision to apply for training contracts relatively late on I had missed the boat with vacation placements and so had to arrange work experience elsewhere.

What are the common attributes of successful candidates?
Looking around both my trainee intake and LPC classes I see confident, intelligent, well-rounded and sociable people.